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The toothpick is the oldest dental cleaning tool around. Fossils of 7,500-year-old teeth indicate that humans were using wooden sticks to clean their teeth well before the advent of toothbrushes. But today, there are better, safer options for removing pesky plaque and bacteria. Dentist and spokesperson with the American Dental Association Dr. Sally Cram explains why toothpicks may not be the best option. Following is a transcript of the video.

Sally Cram: The best analogy I give patients is, “Would you take a stick and poke it into your arm?” You wouldn’t right? So why would you poke a stick into your gum? Toothpicks are okay for pushing out big chunks of food between your teeth. But in general, they don’t take the place of floss or using some sort of interdental cleaner.

You know, they’re wood, they’re sharp. I’ve had patients who have used toothpicks and gotten splinters in their gums and infections. So, also think about it, you know, your job when you’re cleaning between your teeth with floss and when you’re brushing your teeth is basically you’re trying to get down under that little collar of gum tissue and remove the plaque and bacteria. That toothpick is a stiff stick, so to get down under the gum, you’re going to irritate or possibly damage the gum and probably not be very successful.

So, I tell my patients the better thing to use in between teeth rather than a toothpick are, there are things that you can get on the market, floss picks or soft picks. They’re a little plastic stick but they have a little rubber tip end on them that’s much kinder, gentler, more flexible… will be able to get down under the gum, remove the plaque but not damage the gum tissue.

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